Last week, I introduced my kids to the story of Sylvia Mendez, winner of the 2010 Medal of Freedom for her work (and the work of her parents) in the desegregation of California schools in the 1940s. Their work allowed Mexican children to be integrated into the general public schools alongside their white peers. This was a decade before the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case.
My fifth graders were angry that Sylvia and other Mexicans had been forced to go to a run-down school next to a field of cattle. They were particularly incensed when they heard that the Superintendent had called all Mexicans "pigs."
The majority of my school's population is Hispanic. I asked my students to reflect upon this wonderful woman's struggle and accomplishments. I presented them with this question as a writing prompt:
Why should kids here at our school appreciate Sylvia Mendez's story?
One of the very best Saturday Night Live holiday season skits is "A Holiday Wish." In it, Steve Martin expresses his wish that "All the children of the world join hands and sing together in a spirit of harmony and peace." Fretting the logistics of such an undertaking, Martin quickly loses interest in that wish in favor of all-encompassing power over the universe, revenge on his enemies, and other items that render the clip unsharable with students.
If I had a wish this holiday season, I would look up at a star in the night sky and greedily make seven wishes.
For all children to feel safe and included in our schools
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